Hand sanitizer poisoning: Babies and children continue to drink, swallow products containing alcohol

Families should watch for symptoms of ingestion or inhaling vapors.

Devyn Holman | Unsplash.com

Three years after people started buying and using hand sanitizer like never before, babies and children are continuing to accidentally consume the products, which often contain high concentrations of ethyl or isopropyl alcohol.

From Jan. 1, 2023, through June 30, 2023, poison control centers nationwide have handled 8,274 cases involving hand sanitizer exposure in children 12 years and younger, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC).

We appear to be on a pace for far fewer cases of poisoning in 2023 compared with 2021, the first full year of the pandemic, when many people bought hand sanitizer in large quantities to try to protect themselves from COVID. There were more than 31,000 exposure cases in 2021, the last full year for which data are available.

Symptoms of alcohol poisoning from alcohol or rubbing alcohol include:

  • Vomiting.
  • Loss of balance.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Confusion.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Major drowsiness.
  • Irregular breathing.
  • Seizures.

If any of the last three are present, call 911 immediately. For less serious symptoms or questions, call your doctor or the Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222, the Food and Drug Administration says.

For tips on how to avoid hand sanitizer poisoning, see our consumer guide.


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